Circle of Unity
Harry Howard Jr
Ever since San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem to begin his protest of injustice in America, athletes across the country have joined him by also taking a knee or holding up fists. ODU football joined the protest by doing something that hadn’t been seen before.
Prior to the football game against Texas-San Antonio on Sept. 24, the entire team and coaches gathered joining arms and raising them in what Coach Wilder later called the “Circle of Unity.” The team wanted to do something to join the cause and Wilder wanted it to bring them together. He met with the team captains David Washington, T.J. Ricks, Zach Pascal and Rashaad Coward and they came up with this idea that they will continue throughout the rest of the season.
“We want to show that our country can be unified, that we can come together,” Wilder said.
Not only did the Monarchs form the “Circle of Unity,” but during pregame warmups players wore “Black Lives Matter” t-shirts. It caused a mix reaction from fans of the program but Wilder has his players’ backs.
“Black Lives Matter is a very powerful movement with a very strong voice with a number of players on our team. I told them it was their decision. I’m a 100 percent firm believer that this is the greatest country in the world and that freedom of speech is a right for everybody, and not just for the adults or politicians.”
Wilder reached out to Charlotte head coach Brad Lambert inviting his team to join the Monarchs in “Circle of Unity” prior to their game on Oct. 1. Lambert accepted and the two formed together in similar fashion to what the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons did on Monday night football.
“The kids look up to and admire the NFL. I’m hopeful that Charlotte and Old Dominion aren’t the only teams in the country that do this. I hope that a lot of high schools will do it. This is all about unifying our country. It’s about how much we love our country and how we want to bring people together,” said Wilder.
Carolina Panthers safety Tre Boston has been searching for a way his team could join the protest. Wilder reached out to Boston and he met with Monarchs while the team was in North Carolina for the Charlotte game.
“We want to make sure we’re not disrespecting anybody. We have to figure out a way to show that not only will we play for you, we want to be with you in these times. We want to show you that we recognize what’s going on,” said Boston.
ODU will start a mentoring program called “Children 4 Humanity” for local youth at least twice a month. The first event will be held Oct. 13 from 3:30-5 p.m. The football team won’t be the only mentees as student groups will join them and ODU Police Chief Rhonda Harris has reached to law enforcement.
Concerning “Children 4 Humanity,” “We’re going to go as long as the weather holds up, then will try to figure out a way to keep it going during the winter. We’re committed to this,” Wilder said.